So this post goes out to you if you’ve already tried multiple times to put a particular change in place – a diet, a health routine, a higher level of productivity, a higher level of proliferation – and you have failed so many times that it hurts to even try anymore.
… And yet, simply NOT trying is not an option either because that’s also painful, and a little gross, and on the deepest level you know that can make these changes if you can just figure out how.
Here is a principle that I’ve found that has truly changed the entire way I go about self-discipline; the art of getting myself to do what’s in my best interest. It’s this:
Replace the idea of self-control with self-leadership.
I believe that if you were to go about your self-discipline practice this way, that you’ll see a big increase in your success. I’ll explain.
Ultimately, there’s just one of you.
But it’s often helpful to see yourself as two. This is something we already do when we ask questions like “How do I get myself to clean my room?” See? How do I get myself to clean my room? Two players characters – one is writing the post, asking the question and the other is a stubborn, petulant character that refuses to cooperate.
And as it happens, we need that OTHER character to cooperate with “us” if we want to do anything. It’s like rowing in a boat – you need both oars in the water. If one side refuses to go, the boat AT BEST will just spin in circles. It’s an apt metaphor, isn’t it?
Up until now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to gain self-control. We’ve been trying to control ourselves. But the problem there is that despite how much we like the idea of controlling… we DO NOT like being controlled. Do you like being controlled? Forced? Manipulated? Pushed around? Me neither.
Yet nevertheless: The way we treat ourselves is the way we are treated.
Doesn’t that make sense? Because, again, in the end, there’s only one of us. If you treat yourself harshly, you’re being treated harshly.
This is why you can try a new principle, or technique, or app, or accountability that works once or twice to get you to do the thing you need to do… but then stops working. Why does it stop working? Because you’re smart, and you figure out the game, and you know when you’re being manipulated. And you know how to put the brakes on.
It creates the inner harmony that’s required to get these changes and habits in place for long-term success.
When we ask questions like “How do I get myself to stop smoking?” It’s almost like a parent going online and writing “How do I get my child to do what I want?”
It’s just not the correct question to ask. It won’t bring about any happiness, even if you get a good answer. To create self-leadership, start opening a dialogue with yourself.
So suppose you want to diet so that you can lose some weight, slim down, and become attractive.
Here’s what to do:
One. Think about what you’ll need to do in order to achieve the outcome you want. So in our example, consider that you’ll need to eat less sugar, drink less alcohol. Notice what comes up for you when you think about it? What thoughts and emotions come up?
It may be “Right now, I can’t” or “It’s too hard!” or “I don’t know how” or “But I need these things!” or it could be an overall sense of reluctance, or sadness, cynicism, or even fear.
Two. Taking note of what arises when you consider making these changes (and keeping them), DO NOT recoil away and give up, OR hold your breath and start pushing through. Instead, just take a moment right here at the edge and observe this resistance trying to get you not to do this.
Three. Communicate with yourself. As the adult-you, speak to the child-you that simply does not want to do these things. Reason with yourself the way you would with a child. The child-you does not care about how good you’ll look. Child-you doesn’t care one bit about the future. The child-you just wants to eat that cake and drink the soda.
You reason with child-you by saying “How about this, we’ll just make a small change today, and a slightly bigger one tomorrow.” Or “If we can make this change, then we can watch a little more Netflix at night.”
Also, speak to yourself the way you really wish to be spoken to! Like “You’re so brave! So strong! We’re going to do this together, I’ll be right here with you this whole time. I love you always and forever.” And Importantly: “I promise not to get mad at you or abuse you if we mess up on this path. I promise to always support you and celebrate our wins.”
… You’ll notice that this is how a good leader speaks to her crew. Or how a good parent might address his child. Or how a skilled teacher would lead his class.
Again this is not a control thing anymore. It’s leadership. Leadership means the lines of communication are open, that the leader listens to the crew and the crew listens to the leader. This allows different parents to work together in harmony.
Now both oars are in the water.
A final note: You’re still guiding yourself into higher levels of accomplishment. You’re still applying effort and going for it. But you’re doing it in such a way that all of you is on board with what you’re doing.
Try it! I think it will work miracles for you. I’m here for any questions or clarifications. Write any comment in this thread and I will answer or give you support.
However you treat yourself is how you yourself are treated.
If you don’t like being controlled, stop trying to control yourself.
Learn how to lead yourself. Do this by learning to communicate with yourself.
You communicate by listening to what your own concerns are about the changes you wish to make.
You also communicate by encouraging, supporting, guiding and praising yourself.
In self-leadership you still push yourself to excellence, but when the clock runs out, or when you run out of energy, you take good care of yourself and celebrate your wins.